Q 1.2 How has satellite communication technology grown?

The satellite era began in 1957 with launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite. Within a span of some sixty years the technology has evolved to a level unimaginable at its dawn. Space technology now extends far beyond satellite communication – covering direct-to-home broadcasts, navigation, remote-sensing (resource monitoring, atmospheric monitoring, weather monitoring, etc.), space photography, space-tourism, inter-planetary and deep space exploratory probes, radio astronomy, etc. The satellite communication sector provides the highest revenue amongst all.

Communication capabilities have expanded from point to point communication between massive earth station to direct communication between small personal and mobile user terminals, while data rates have grown from a few kilobit/s to hundreds of megabit/s, depending on the applications and user terminal size and at the same time communication costs have plummeted. The industry has continued to grow at a healthy rate (typically 3-4% per year recently) with healthy projections for the foreseeable future. Beginning from a single international fixed satellite system, the number of international and domestic systems has proliferated and the technology has expanded to cover mobile and broadcast services for personal use. Mobile satellite services provide global services to aeronautical, maritime and land users, while broadcast services provide television, radio and multi-media services to millions around the globe The industry has now focused on developing technologies that lower communication cost/bit, lower terminal cost and size, as well as on technologies to compete and complement terrestrial consumer services.

Advanced techniques of interest include:
     – high capacity and high power satellites capable of generating hundreds of spot beams delivering over a
       hundred Gbit/s;
     – seamless IP transport over satellite;
     – use of high frequency bands – 20-30 GHz that provide large bandwidths;
     – leveraging terrestrial technologies such as 3G/4G to advantage;
     – use of powerful reconfigurable signal processing chips with, advanced signal-processing algorithms;
     – tight and seamless integration with terrestrial networks and satellite navigation systems;
     – hybrid network architecture that utilise terrestrial retransmissions to mitigate detrimental impact of fading
       in urban areas.

According to September, 2014 satellite industry report produced by Satellite Industry Association, the satellite industry’s global revenue has grown from 74.3 B$ in 2004 to 195.2 B$ – i.e., nearly 2.63 times at an average growth rate of about 11%. A majority of this growth can be attributed to the satellite communication sector [Reference: www.sia.org].